OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A shipment intercepted on its way to Washington state is under quarantine in Olympia Wednesday night. It's a houseboat being trucked in across the border, and it just happened to be home to thousands of very dangerous critters.
An alert Idaho state inspector first found quagga mussels two weeks ago on the boat, which was en-route from Arizona to Washington on a trailer.
Washington State Aquatic Invasive Species Inspector Allen Pleaus found a few quagga mussels clinging to the hull of the houseboat. But when he took a look inside the engine compartment, he found the mother load.
Quagga mussels have cut a destructive path across the U.S. since they migrated here from the Ukraine -- hitching a ride on the hulls and in the ballast tanks of cargo ships. For the last 20 years, quagga mussels have steadily headed west, coating and killing everything in their path.
"These mussels decimated a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the Great Lakes area in their fishing industry," said Sgt. Carl Klein with the Washington Department Fish & Wildlife Enforcement (WDF&W).
Many feel the quagga invasion of Washington state's waters is a forgone conclusion. But Klein and Pleaus are assigned to create a quagga firewall at the state border and so far it's working.
Inspectors were relieved to find that the mussels on this boat appeared to be dead, but they couldn't be sure so they brought in a power washer and scrubbed down the boat with hot water, which is deadly to quagga mussels.
They are now working with other state agencies to track down some two dozen similar houseboats that were auctioned off from a marina at a quagga infested lake in Arizona.
The owner of the boat said he was unaware of the infestation and agreed to pay for the decontamination process.